A Dream of Fairies
Oil on board; wrongly ascribed to Maclise and inscribed 'Given to SC Hall, Publishers' verso
11 x 15.5 inches
Heatherley School of Fine Art, 150th Anniversary Exhibition, 27 February - 9 March 1996, no 5
Variously described by his students as resembling a ‘medieval necromancer’ or a ‘creeping Jesus’, Thomas Heatherley ran Heatherley’s School of Fine Art, the first art school to admit women on equal terms with men (from the start in 1845, when it was called Leigh’s). Heatherley was married to a freethinker, Kate, one of the first champions of Women’s Suffrage and a fierce advocate of birth control: ‘She achieved two children and then basically buggered off!’ (Veronica Ricks, current Principal of Heatherley’s). She later moved to the Seychelles, where she preached to the native women about birth control. When she returned to Britain she was disappointed not to be able to join the Suffragettes in their more violent demonstrations, and, dying in 1914, did not witness their ultimate triumph. This painting, of about 1860, is in Heatherley’s highly distinctive manner, derived from Bosch and Brueghel. Each fairy is a ‘type’ of female beauty, from dark to fair complexion. It was once thought to be by Maclise, and appears to have belonged to SC Hall, the editor first of the Art Union until 1839, and thereafter of the Art Journal.